Monday, July 25, 2005

Impetuosity Amidst the Struggle for Rational Acts

Throughout life, people strive to do the sensible thing at the appropriate time. During this process a lot of second-guessing and “should’ve – would’ve – could’ve” occurs. Amidst the struggle for rational acts, impetuosity inevitably looms, usually bringing about a setback or the downfall of a person. While impetuosity may result in good, wonderful acts, most often – because of the absence of thought in carrying out the action – it does generate blunders. Three different categories arise from this endeavor: 1) the person who rationalizes too much and is infected by impetuous acts, 2) the person in which impetuosity occludes rationalizing, and 3) a molding of the first two, the person who is capable of rational spontaneity but sporadically falls to impetuosity. Notice that the three groups refer specifically to people regarding action; a person who does not act cannot show a measure of impetuosity. Shakespeare displays this categorical feature of human nature throughout his plays – more specifically in the characters of Hamlet, Romeo, and Iago.
The over-rationalizer is a person who cannot make a decision without studying all of the angles in detail. When he purchases a car, he mulls it over for an extended period. He researches the safety features, checks Consumer Reports, and looks at the Bluebook value. He knows what options he must have and the purpose for the vehicle, whether a family car or efficient transportation to and from work. He even determines the best method of payment for the vehicle. After he has sufficiently proven to himself the correct course of action and, of course, has selected the proper dealership, he makes the purchase. In filling out the paperwork, the sales associate asks the buyer if he wants to buy the extended warranty – BAM! He has not planned for this question, and cannot rationalize spontaneously. He makes an impetuous decision only to second-guess it repeatedly. Minor reckless decisions may weigh on his mind, but major ones can greatly affect his sanity, as he always questions why he never planned for that viewpoint.
Shakespeare creates the embodiment of the over-rationalizer in Hamlet. Hamlet exhibits his first bit of rationalizing in his soliloquy 1.2.129-159, attempting to reason through his widowed mother’s marriage to his uncle. Hamlet concludes his discourse with the judicious decision that he “must hold [his] tongue” (Ham. 1.2.159). This early morsel of sensible thought lays the groundwork for Hamlet’s characterization throughout the play. Upon hearing of his father’s ghost in 1.2, Hamlet asks nine questions of Horatio, Marcellus and Barnardo in discerning if the spirit was his father’s ghost. However, when Hamlet sees the ghost himself, he impetuously follows the ghost against the requests of his friends in 1.4. Hotheadedness in 1.5 furthermore leads Hamlet to swear revenge upon his father’s murderer based upon the account of the ghost. This begins the “infection” of impetuosity that brings about Hamlet’s demise. In his soliloquy in 2.2.550-605, Hamlet logically decides that since he cannot bring himself verbally to accuse Claudius of murder, he will have the players act out the murder scene in order to illicit a response from Claudius proving his guilt. In addition, Hamlet begins second-guessing his haste decision to swear to a ghost who might be the work of the devil (Ham. 2.2.598-603). This weighs on Hamlet because he now grapples with making sense of his choice to honor the ghost’s request as well as coming up with a rational exacting of revenge.
In the midst of Hamlet’s care in planning everything out, he commits a major act of impetuosity in killing Polonius in 3.4. Although Hamlet thinks the hidden Polonius is Claudius, he executes “a rash and bloody deed” (Ham. 3.4.27). When he tries to balance out this reckless deed by telling Gertrude the account of Claudius’s murder of King Hamlet and that Gertrude is guilty by association, he portrays himself as a ranting lunatic. His impetuous act has clouded his judicial attempt at conveying the truth.
Hamlet knows his own character well, declaring, “I am not splenitive [and] rash, / Yet have I in me something dangerous” (Ham. 5.1.261-262). Even so, his hasty actions snowball into an odd show of rational spontaneity. Hamlet’s impetuosity brings about the events that lead to his demise, but Hamlet arrives on his own terms. Rational spontaneity allows his demise, but not his downfall. Hamlet retains dignity at his end through his rational act of slaying Claudius then preventing Horatio’s death (Ham. 5.2). In Hamlet’s case, impetuosity enabled Hamlet to rationalize less, but begin to think more spontaneously.
The second category finds a person who is so overwrought with impulsiveness that level-headedness is scant. Following the previous scenario of purchasing a car, take notice of the difference in this impetuous man’s approach. First, he has no plans of purchasing an automobile. He sees a vehicle either on the street or in passing the dealer’s lot. He immediately desires that vehicle. He goes into the dealership, tells them he wants the vehicle. He lets them fill out the paperwork, including the payment plan, in any fashion – as long as he ends up with the car. It is not until later that he realizes that he purchased an “as is” Corvette with multiple problems (insurance costs, engine trouble that may come with “as is” vehicles, extra attention from police, etc.). In addition, he faces the dilemma of transporting his children in a two-seater. The issues with the car swell until Impetuous man cannot hold onto his dream any longer, and must frantically rid himself of the car at a loss.
Shakespeare paints Romeo as the quintessential impetuous man. Romeo’s first appearance proves him an intelligent person, lobbing a barrage of oxymorons:
Why then, O brawling love! O loving hate!
O any thing, of nothing first [create]!
O heavy lightness, serious vanity,
Misshapen chaos of well [-seeming] forms,
Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health,
Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!
This love feel I, that feel no love in this. (Rom. 1.1.176-182)

Forrest Gump’s proclamation, “Stupid is as stupid does,” alludes to the misconception that a stupid act reveals a stupid person, which is not always the case (Forrest). One must acknowledge Romeo’s intellect in order to recognize that his actions stem from impetuosity rather than stupidity. Romeo’s recklessness transpires when he first sees Juliet and instantaneously declares his love for her (Rom. 1.5.52). This carelessness continues through the rest of the scene in Romeo’s successful attempt to proffer a kiss from his newfound love only to learn afterward that she is a Capulet.
A rational thinker would stop here, but Romeo persists in his rashness by slipping off through the Capulet orchard to Juliet’s balcony in hopes of again seeing his forbidden love (Rom. 2.2). Persistent impetuosity shows in Romeo’s profession of love to Juliet and his acceptance of her marriage proposal in the same scene. In 2.3, Friar Laurence unsuccessfully tries to reason with Romeo, pointing out the possible mishaps that may arise. However, the rational advice only elicits Romeo’s “stand on sudden haste” (Rom. 2.3.93). Impetuosity has so occluded rationalizing that Romeo ignores the Friar’s wisdom.
Romeo’s strain for level-headedness in 3.1 in avoiding conflict with Tybalt is precluded by Mercutio’s death. As a result, Romeo maintains hotheaded ways by exacting revenge upon Tybalt. From this point on Romeo can no longer rationalize. In 3.3 when he discovers that he has been banished, at the thought of not seeing Juliet again, he throws himself to the ground in a childish temper-tantrum – a total occlusion of rationalization. When the nurse arrives in 3.3, Romeo displays impulsiveness by trying to kill himself. Romeo falls so deeply into impetuosity that the judicious Friar cannot compensate with his wisdom. The Friar’s rational spontaneity shows in his plot to help Juliet escape to Romeo, but is foiled when Romeo does not think to seek out the Friar when he learns of Juliet’s apparent death. Romeo has sought Friar Laurence’s advice in all other matters up to this point, so in not seeking the Friar’s counsel, Romeo’s impetuosity magnifies. Romeo’s impetuous tragic flaw sanctions the deaths of Paris, Romeo, and Juliet in 5.3. Shakespeare’s use of dramatic irony leads the audience to see the wealth of “should’ve, could’ve, would’ve” scenarios that may have prevented the tragic ending.
The third category depicts a person who is capable of rational spontaneity. This man is the most balanced in his actions. The auto purchase development in this case is a molding of the previous two scenarios. Rational spontaneous man can think on his feet. He may have been considering the purchase of a new car, but has not narrowed a selection down until seeing one on the lot. If the salesperson tries to throw him a curveball, his quick wit carries him through the situation. He is able to formulate an effective plan on impulse, and exits the site with what he wants and needs. Because of the spontaneity involved, if rational spontaneous man falters, one has difficulty determining if the cause is a result of a strategy gone awry or is a product of impetuosity.
Shakespeare designs rational spontaneity in Friar Laurence, but manufactures the entire being of Iago with the characteristic. In fact, Iago is so quick-witted that it is challenging to determine how much he has planned versus pure impulse. Iago’s ultimate goal of Othello’s demise leads to the orchestration of several improvised side schemes as stepping-stones. The genius of Iago is that most of his actions are the enacting of other characters to complete his ruses – making Iago the “Great Director.”
In his quest to seek revenge upon Othello, Iago opens the play by manipulating Roderigo to “call up her [Desdemona’s] father [Brabantio]” to tell him that Desdemona eloped with Othello (Oth. 1.167). He then instigates Brabantio to rise up against Othello – his intention being to draw negative attention to the Moor. The logical web work of Iago begins. In an obvious act of rational spontaneity amidst the drawing of swords, Iago declares, “You, Roderigo! Come, sir, I am for you” (Oth. 1.2.58). This minor act simultaneously demonstrates his loyalty to Othello and his assurance to Roderigo that harm will not come to him or Roderigo.
Iago discloses his plans to the audience in his soliloquies at 1.3.392-403, 2.1.286-312, 2.3.48-61, 2.3.357-362, 2.3.382-388, and 3.3.321-322. He conducts these ploys with a combination of precision and spontaneity needed to keep them on track. He carries out the schemes in the first two acts by utilizing rational spontaneity in a playful manner. In 2.1 concerning the creation of the illusion of love between Cassio and Desdemona, Iago first makes a few good-natured digs at Emilia, and then aims his teasing at Desdemona, all the while projecting Cassio as Desdemona’s savior from his mischievousness (91-178). Later, in 2.3 Iago enacts the beginning of Cassio’s infatuation with Desdemona (12-29). With the intention of getting Cassio drunk enough to fight Roderigo, Iago spontaneously becomes the life of the party by singing tavern songs (Oth. 2.3.62-119). In the same scene, Iago thinks to convince Montano that Cassio is an alcoholic (Oth. 2.3.121-144). After the brawl between drunken Cassio and Montano, Iago becomes, in 2.3.220-246, the benevolent Benvolio and steps up to give the honest account of events “as he saw them.” This speech results in Othello discharging Cassio from duty. Iago immediately takes advantage of Cassio’s dismissal by convincing Cassio to plead to Desdemona for assistance in getting reinstated – once again working towards the illusion of a Cassio-Desdemona relationship (Oth. 2.3.313-325). Iago’s last playful act commences in 3.3 as he lays the groundwork of doubt and jealousy in Othello, making him believe Cassio is making a move on Desdemona. In this case, Iago subtly prompts Othello to play devil’s advocate and in doing so creates suspicion about Desdemona’s faithfulness.
Later in 3.3 Iago’s impulses to complete his plots turn villainous. When Othello’s jealousy bursts into a rage, Iago provokes him further by asking, “Would you, the [supervisor], grossly gape on? / Behold her topp’d?” (Oth. 3.3.395-396). He continues the pressure by recounting a supposed instance of Cassio sleep-talking of loving Desdemona, hiding their love, and cursing fate for giving Desdemona to Othello (Oth. 3.3.419-426). All of this, coupled with the insinuation that Desdemona gave Cassio the handkerchief that Othello gave her, results in Othello ordering the death of Cassio (Oth. 3.3.472-473). Iago does not give up here, but instead rational spontaneity continues as he uses reverse psychology on Othello when he says, “Let her live” (Oth. 3.3.475). Othello takes the bait and vows to kill Desdemona as well.
In 4.1 Iago combines tactics in a wickedly playful discourse with Cassio. While his logical plan is to have Othello overhear Cassio speaking of his love for Desdemona and her love for Othello’s fallen lieutenant, Iago uses spontaneous wit to tease Cassio about Bianca’s love for Cassio without either of them announcing her name aloud. Iago finally exhibits his greatest enactment in commanding Othello to “Do it not with poison; strangle her in her bed, / even the bed she hath contaminated” (Oth. 4.1.207-208).
The fifth act presents the challenge in identifying whether Iago’s actions are rational spontaneity or impetuosity. The cause of this ambiguity is that Iago’s schemes are starting to unravel and overlap. It becomes more difficult for him to keep the minor ruses separated so each player involved remains ignorant of the players of the other ploys. In 5.1 Iago’s setup of Roderigo killing Cassio backfires as Roderigo is wounded instead. Iago quick-wittedly stabs Cassio and kills Roderigo to cover the misdeed. Iago even thinks to bind Cassio’s wounded leg, and leaves the impression that Iago is a hero. By doing so Iago averts disaster and retains his original agenda. In his last rational act Iago, hoping Emilia will witness Othello murdering Desdemona, sends Emilia “to tell my lord and lady what hath happ’d” (Oth. 5.1.127). In 5.2 Iago comes undone as Emilia tries to accuse him, and he, no longer capable of rational thought, impetuously pulls his sword on her. When Emilia does implicate Iago, he impulsively murders her and runs out. Iago is emblazoned with the title of impetuosity, even if for a brief moment, as Lodovico asks, “Where is this rash and most unfortunate man?” (Oth. 5.2.283). The lasting question is whether Iago’s demise occurred because of his judiciously planned schemes going awry or because of a moment of impetuosity. The evidence points to a weak moment of impetuosity. With Iago’s intellect and rational spontaneous abilities, he may have found a way to manipulate his way out of the situation without killing Emilia. His “should’ve – would’ve – could’ve” may have gone back to the point of sending someone else to witness Othello’s murder of Desdemona.
Within each category, Shakespeare portrays a character who meets his demise, yet he reveals each player in a different manner that elicits set audience feelings about each one. Because Hamlet, the over-rationalizer, learns to act more spontaneously, he becomes a hero that audience members idolize. Impetuous man, Romeo, evokes pity as the audience thinks of the several “should’ve – would’ve – could’ve” scenarios that may have saved the young romantic’s life. In Iago, master of rational spontaneity, Shakespeare induces awe, respect, and hatred simultaneously because of his wit and ability to hold all of his ruses together for so long, and in Iago’s downfall he creates a sense of satisfaction that justice has been served. When the audience leaves the theatre or places the text back on the shelf, Shakespeare has created a reality in the characters by effecting feelings about, and for, the individuals portrayed.

Works Cited

Forrest Gump. Dir. Robert Zemeckis. Perf. Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, Mykelti Williamson, and Sally Field. 1994. Videocassette. Paramount Pictures. 1995.
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. The Riverside Shakespeare, Second Edition. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans and J. J. M. Tobin. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997. 1189-1234.
---. The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice. The Riverside Shakespeare, Second Edition. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans and J. J. M. Tobin. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997. 1251-1288.
---. The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. The Riverside Shakespeare, Second Edition. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans and J. J. M. Tobin. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997. 1104-1139.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

True Colors of Shakespeare’s Othello

As a master of portraying human nature, William Shakespeare creates characters not only believable as characters, but as real people as well. Shakespeare knew that the audience needed to see each character as someone they could meet or associate with a person within their daily lives. While the actions of a person in the Elizabethan Era may be explained by his four humours, a description that associates the person’s physical attributes of his/her blood with nature, Carolyn Kalil’s True Colors personality assessment better explains the actions of a person through the person’s personality traits depicted by the four True Colors. Kalil notes that the “True Colors [Personality System] was designed in 1979 by Don Lowry, combining four colors with four distinct personality types. He presented his program as a stage production with actors playing the roles of the four personalities” (4). Using the True Colors system, one finds the characters of Shakespeare’s Othello come to life as real people with reasons for their behaviors.

Kalil explains that the first color, or primary color, represents characteristics that are most like the person (16). Self-esteem originates from the primary color while the secondary color shapes the way a person expresses his or her primary color. Less of a person is seen in his or her third and fourth colors. Kalil quickly points out that “no primary color is better than another” as “each personality has different strengths and preferences” (16).

Kalil’s book, Follow Your True Colors to the Work You Love, contains four character cards that briefly sum up each of the four personality colors (characteristics) that comprise each person’s True Colors profile. The Orange card depicts a courageous, spontaneous, competitive, physical, and charming personality. The Green card illustrates a conceptual, rational, investigative, and collected personality. The Gold card shows a conventional, moral, ethical, dependable, loyal, traditional, and organized personality. Finally, the Blue card describes a compassionate, supporting, caring, romantic, nurturing, harmonizing, enthusiastic, and idealistic personality. In an argument, Oranges will argue even if they know they are wrong, Blues will try to avoid or end the argument because they do not like conflict, Golds think they are right, and Greens know they are right.

Shakespeare gives enough personality to his minor characters to create a sense of reality. Brabantio, Gratiano, Lodovico, and Montano wonderfully portray a primary color of Gold, the personality color that Kalil associates with politicians (127). Brabantio expresses his gold color through his outrage that Othello and Desdemona did not follow tradition in getting married; he suggests that Othello must have used witchcraft on Desdemona because she would never have defied her father by marrying someone outside of her class or race (Oth. 1.1.94-106). Kalil explains that a Gold man greatly emphasizes ensuring good citizenship and good values in his children (92). Because Desdemona has defied Brabantio’s teachings, as a Gold he must assume that the fault lies in witchcraft – not in his attempt to transfer his values to his daughter as a Gold parent should do. Bianca displays her Orange personality in Oth. 3.4.196-198 as she tells Cassio that she knows that he does not love her, but requests that he ask her over for sex that night. Kalil suggests that an Orange such as Bianca resorts to sex when she is “out-of-esteem,” or, as in this case, cannot gain the love of the man (Cassio) whom she loves (105). Even though these characters are not well described, Shakespeare has given them real personalities that have real and justifiable behaviors.

As Shakespeare presents a rounder character, the audience sees that individual’s primary and secondary colors. In Oth. 1.1 Roderigo presents both his Orange and Blue personalities. Roderigo does not consider the time of day when he calls out to Brabantio in Oth. 1.1.78, but falls prey to the Orange characteristic of acting or speaking first and thinking of the consequences later (Kalil 105). In Oth. 1.1.96-101, Brabantio gives the impression that Roderigo is infatuated with Desdemona. Kalil associates this quality of being a hopeless romantic with a Blue (63). Roderigo proves himself a Blue-Orange in Oth 1.3 as he shows his emotions publicly before Iago (a Blue trait) and impetuously contemplates drowning himself (an Orange trait).

Although the Duke of Venice plays a small part in the plot, Shakespeare gives him a round portrayal as a Green-Gold. Kalil identifies decision-making and evaluating as natural talents of a Gold (125), and being a judge as a well-suited career choice for a Gold (127). The Duke finds himself in this position of a Gold, but does, however, reveal his Green primary color in his judgment of Othello as he says, “To vouch this is no proof, / Without more wider and more overt test / Than these thin habits and poor likelihoods / Of modern seeming do prefer against him” (Oth. 1.3.106-109). This disregard for the emotional testimony by Brabantio and desire for just the facts exemplifies Kalil’s concept of a rational Green (73). Kalil’s work also confirms the notion of the Duke having Green as his primary color in her description of a Green as being “destined to be a leader” (78).

Shakespeare gives Cassio a Green-Orange personality, matching his role as a leader and man of action. Iago describes Cassio as an arithmetician, one who knows the principles of battle, but has no experience fighting in a battle (Oth. 1.119-26). Kalil labels such objective thinkers and theorists as Greens (70). While Cassio tends to display his Green personality most often, his Orange secondary color leads him to trouble as he proclaims, “. . . I have very poor / and unhappy brains for drinking” (Oth. 2.3.33-34). Kalil identifies addiction to alcohol as an “out-of-esteem” characteristic of an Orange (105). Kalil also discusses the violent tempers that “out-of-esteem” Oranges have as she states, “. . . if you start a fight with them, be prepared to finish it” (105). A drunken Cassio demonstrates this trait as he pursues Roderigo and fights Montano (Oth. 2.3.145-156).

When the character of Emilia unfolds, a Blue-Gold personality emerges. The natural gifts of a Blue include fostering, helping others, and nurturing (Kalil 113). Shakespeare’s Emilia portrays these characteristics in her care of Desdemona throughout the play. In particular, Emilia takes on a maternal role as she begins consoling Desdemona in Oth. 4.3. She clearly oversteps class boundaries as she comments, “I would you [Desdemona] had never seen him [Othello]” (Oth. 4.3.18). As a Blue, Emilia not only sympathizes with her lady, but she can also empathize with her. Emilia’s Gold secondary personality drives her to remain loyal – a quality Kalil says that Golds hold in high regard (43). Emilia’s loyalty (Gold) drives her attempt to patch up the confusion and jealousy Othello displays as he asks Emilia if she has seen Cassio and Desdemona together; Emilia replies, “But then I saw no harm, and then I heard / Each syllable that breath made up between them” (Oth. 4.2.4-5). She later emphasizes her point by saying to Othello, “I durst, my lord, to wager she [Desdemona] is honest; / Lay down my soul at stake” (Oth 4.2.12-13).

Blue personalities also see everyone as good until that person provides evidence of the contrary (Kalil 54). Emilia not only views Othello negatively after he calls Desdemona a whore (Oth. 4.2.70-81), but also realizes the true nature of her husband when Othello tells her that Iago said Desdemona was unfaithful (Oth. 5.2.136-139). Shakespeare needs Emilia to be naïve about Iago’s deeds just as the audience needs Emilia to bring forth her Gold traits in the end to make everything right. Emilia’s Gold character does step up as she proclaims, “O thou dull Moor, that handkerchief thou speak’st of / I found by fortune, and did give my husband; / For often, with a solemn earnestness / (More than indeed belong’d to such a trifle), / He begg’d of me to steal’t” (Oth. 5.2.225-229). Emilia’s final attempt to set things right conveys the driving force of her secondary Goldness as it pushes her primary Blue personality to resolve the conflict and become what Kalil describes as the Blue becoming the ultimate rescuer (68). Because of Emilia’s Blue-Gold colors, Shakespeare’s audience can view her last minutes, however tragic, as a success – a life with meaning and purpose.

In analyzing Desdemona’s True Colors, Blue stands out as primary – so dominant as to occlude the other colors. She begins to show her romantic Blue characteristics as she says to Othello, “The heavens forbid / But that our loves and comforts should increase / Even as our days do grow!” (Oth. 2.1.193-195). Desdemona also displays the Blue attribute of helping others as she professes to Cassio, “Be thou assur’d, good Cassio, I will do / All my abilities in thy behalf” (Oth. 3.3.1-2). In this manner, Desdemona sets out to get Cassio reinstated as Othello’s lieutenant. Desdemona feels the empathy of a Blue, telling Othello that Cassio left “so humbled / That he hath left part of his grief with me / To suffer with him” (Oth. 3.3.52-54). Shakespeare needs his audience to feel the innocence, naïveté, and goodness of Desdemona so they feel horror at her death later. Kalil mentions that an “out-of-esteem” Blue may “have a tendency to withdraw and wallow in self-pity” (67). Desdemona does just that when she seeks seclusion in the “Willow” song in Oth. 4.3. She never quite reclaims her self-esteem before being murdered by Othello in Oth. 5.2, thus gaining audience sympathy.

Kalil mentions two Blue characteristics important in discussing the Blue-Orange Othello. Blues have strong communication skills, most commonly personalizing the conversation (Kalil 55). Kalil says, “Because [Blues] don’t like to argue, they may appear to be cowards in a hostile situation; but their strength lies in knowing that there is a better way to resolve conflict” (56). Othello displays his communication skills early as he says, “Let him do his spite; / My services which I have done the signiory / Shall out-tongue his complaints” (Oth. 1.2.17-19). Instead of the poetic language used, Othello could have simply said, “Don’t worry about it. My work for the government is more important than anything Brabantio can say.” In another instance before the Duke, Othello says,

“Rude am I in my speech,

And little bless’d with the soft phrase of peace;

For since these arms of mine had seven years’ pith,

Till now some nine moons wasted, they have us’d

Their dearest action in the tented field;

And little of this great world can I speak

More than pertains to feats of broils and battle,

And therefore little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself” (Oth. 1.3.80-89).

Instead of being “rude . . . in . . . speech,” Othello articulates his thoughts quite well. Othello demonstrates his fondness of conversing about himself as he describes the way that he won Desdemona’s love – by telling stories of his life (Oth. 1.3.128-170). Othello also displays his strength in resolving conflicts early in the play when he is met by an angry Brabantio and says, “Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them” (Oth. 1.2.59) and, “Hold your hands, / Both you of my inclining, and the rest” (Oth. 1.2.81-82). Shakespeare utilizes both Blue characteristics (ability in resolving conflicts and dexterity in conversing) at the beginning of the play to sway the audience to like the Moor, characterizing him as passive and noble, yet at the same time portraying a hint of cowardice in Othello.

Kalil says that a Blue man needs quality time with his mate, or he gets upset – “he needs lots of attention (64). Shakespeare uses this Blue attribute as part of Othello’s tragic flaw, jealousy. Othello requires so much attention from Desdemona, that when Iago convinces him in Oth. 3.3 that Cassio is romantically pursuing Desdemona, he believes it. Kalil says that at times of conflict, “Blues may shut down and lose their ability to communicate because they are feeling so many emotions” (57). After speaking with Iago, Othello’s next discourse with Desdemona is reduced to one sentence replies and statement to which she asks, “Why do you speak so faintly? / Are you not well?” (Oth. 3.3.283).

Shakespeare then builds Othello’s breakdown by depending upon Othello’s secondary color of Orange. Othello’s “out-of-esteem” Orangeness leads to a violent temper coupled with an “out-of-esteem” Blue trait of openly crying (Kalil 67). Othello’s violent temper appears in Oth. 3.3.359-363 when he grabs Iago by the throat and says, “Villain, be sure thou prove my love a whore; / Be sure of it. Give me ocular proof, / Or by the worth of mine eternal soul, / Thou hadst been better have been born a dog / Than answer my wak’d wrath!” Shakespeare follows the twist of human nature as Othello fully succumbs to jealousy. In the midst of Othello’s wrath enabled by his Orange secondary color, Desdemona witnesses Othello in his “out-of-esteem” Blue characteristic of crying (Oth. 4.2.42). Shakespeare uses the manic qualities of depression associated with “out-of-esteem” Blues to swing Othello back into an eerily calm temper that ends Desdemona’s life in Oth. 5.2. Othello’s primary Blue color enables Shakespeare to convey Othello’s true love and remorse at the end of Oth. 5.2 as Othello commits suicide resulting from his anagnorisis.

Although Othello is about the tragedy of Othello, Shakespeare creates Iago as the most intriguing and the roundest of characters, maintaining a clear sense of reality. Shakespeare presents Iago with a Green-Orange personality. As the play opens, Iago conveys to Roderigo his anger at Othello for not selecting him to become his lieutenant (Oth. 1.1.8-33). Iago immediately takes on the Green “out-of-esteem” behavior of “resort[ing] to bitter sarcasm or cynicism. Their clever use of words can become a sharp weapon that penetrates the heart or cuts through the bones” (Kalil 81). This “out-of-esteem” personality trait takes over Iago’s being as he utilizes it to destroy several of the characters in the play. Shakespeare creates a real person in Iago through his Green color because Iago whittles down his opponents with his discourse, manipulating each opponent as he does. Iago, known as honest Iago, is just that, honest, letting his clever use of words dictate what he wants a person to hear. The sarcasm of his first lines already demonstrates his clever discourse: “[‘Sblood,] but you’ll not hear me. / If ever I did dream of such a matter [taking Roderigo’s money as if his own], / Abhor me” (Oth. 1.1.4-6). Iago rightly states that Roderigo will not hear, or listen, to him as he says that Roderigo should hate Iago because he is considering how to get all of Roderigo’s money. In another instance, Iago says to Cassio, “And, good lieutenant, I think you think I love you” (Oth. 2.2.311). This Green comment manipulates Cassio into thinking that Iago loves him when Iago has said nothing of the kind. Once again Iago revisits this topic, but with Othello as he says, “My lord, you know I love you” (Oth. 3.3.17). His manipulation of language counts upon Othello interpreting the first know as “believe to be true” though Iago hates the Moor. Iago also says to Othello, “I should be wise – for honesty’s a fool / And loses that it works for” (Oth. 3.3.382-383). Iago wants Othello to interpret this discourse as, “It does not pay to be honest because one loses what he goes after.” Iago truly means that he is wise because “honest Iago” is a person who fools (deceives) and rids himself of the person (Othello) for whom he works.

Shakespeare also expresses the character of Iago in terms of his secondary color, Orange. Kalil notes that an Orange has a natural gift of persuading others in favor of a point of view (131). Iago quite easily convinces Roderigo to provide money by selling all his land (Oth. 1.3.382). In another instance, with the intention of getting Cassio drunk enough to lose his temper, Iago persuades him to drink some wine (Oth. 2.3.47). Finally, Iago persuades Emilia to procure Desdemona’s handkerchief given to her by Othello that Iago “. . . hath a hundred times / Woo’d me to steal . . .” (Oth. 3.3.292-293). At the end of the play, Shakespeare explodes Iago’s character as he is caught in his schemes and has nothing else to say as “From this time forth [Iago] will never speak word” (Oth. 5.2.304). Because of his silence, one questions whether Iago reaches the fullness of his True Colors (a sublime nirvana of being) as the truth is discovered or whether Iago loses his personality (a lack of all colors) and becomes nothing. If he has achieved this completeness, then “I am not what I am” truly becomes “I am what I am” – a self-realization resulting in the silence. On the other hand, if Iago has lost his personality, “Demand me [to be] nothing; what you know, you know” implies the implosion of Iago’s character. If a person has lost his personality, he may withdraw into a silence of mind and being – nothingness.

Because Shakespeare is a master of capturing human nature, the True Colors system of analyzing characters in Shakespearean plays shows the realism of each character. Kalil notes that in understanding the True Colors system, “we develop a sense of interdependence that says we are here to support and serve each other in reaching our potentials and accomplishing our goals” (168). Shakespeare has developed this sense of interdependence of his characters in Othello. They are here to support and serve each other in reaching their potentials (realistic, round characterization) and accomplishing their goals (becoming believable as characters and as real people). Where life leaves off, Shakespeare takes over.

Works Cited

Kalil, Carolyn. Follow Your True Colors to the Work You Love. Wilsonville: BookPartners, Inc., 1998.

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice. The Riverside Shakespeare, Second Edition. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans and J. J. M. Tobin. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997. 1251-1288.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Shakespeare in the park – Tempest - Summer 2005

The performance of The Tempest in St. Louis was wonderfully produced to appeal to all ages. Although the set was of a minimalist design, it was perfect for the production. The wrecked ship was placed upon its side and at a diagonal angle with the bow in the air – approximately half of the ship was missing. The deck was facing the audience, and the mast had been broken off at the base. A hinged panel on the ship dropped down to display the inside of Prospero’s dwelling. When the ship was in the scene, the lighting was a golden brown hue. At all other times the ship was cast with white light, making it appear as the gray face of a cliff. Two small water pools were incorporated into the front edge of the stage, and stage right was comprised of an eight to ten foot mass of rock with a trail leading upstage and off. Prospero made his “hidden” entrances from the peak of the ship’s bow, which was approximately twenty feet above the stage. The actors also incorporated the audience area as part of the set.
Prospero was performed commandingly as should be. The performance of Ariel demonstrated the love and loyalty that she had for Prospero. Trinculo was performed in a loony manner that contained hints of the Three Stooges and the Marx brothers.
The only characterization that bothered me was the portrayal of Caliban with a Lenny (Of Mice and Men) voice – or, more closely, the Warner Brothers cartoon dog that spoofed Lenny. Caliban is an intelligent creature, but the Lenny voice created a dumbing down effect. The children at the performance enjoyed the characterization of Caliban, but I felt that it detracted from the drama almost as much as the creepy “Muahh, ha, ha” laugh of the guy sitting in front of me. Caliban was also depicted as a hairy centaur-like creature instead of a fish-man – once again probably to make him more appealing to the children in the audience.
Overall, I left the experience with the tingly feeling that I had hoped to achieve. The language flowed from one character to another when it was necessary, and it sounded conversational in parts that required it. Trinculo and Stephano play off each other perfectly – demonstrating the smoothness of Shakespeare’s language. Trinculo’s wit and banter appealed to me the most – the actor adding in grunts and sighs appropriately. The minimal lighting effects (changes in color only) did not create the magic, but the poetic language and the blocking of the scenes. The slow motion and/or freezing of actors during Ariel’s magic brought reality to the performance.